Designer outlet: TV star John Amabile has a creative spark on screen and off
These days he runs John Amabile Design from a studio in Milngavie, offering not only consultancy and project management work for private clients and developers, but a curated collection of home furnishings for smaller projects.
In many ways his career has been a reflection of the evolution of interior design in Scotland. He started with a degree course in the 1980s at Glasgow College of Building and Printing, and recalls: “In the ’80s, employing a designer was seen as the ultimate luxury, and there was little private client work – so I have had a great deal of experience in other areas.”
John’s career proper began when he moved down south to London. He explains: “Most of the work was in retail because people were still opening shops, unlike now. I worked on high street names and Harrods. I ended up designing an Abu Dhabi duty-free and a Woolworths in Limassol.
“It gave me a great grounding in understanding technical drawings, what costs go into the process, and how to talk to builders, planners and furniture makers.”
From there, pure chance led to his career path taking a different direction. “I did work placement in TV as a student, and in the 1990s I was offered a job as a set designer for STV back in Glasgow. So I worked on films and TV programmes – designing the set for The Singing Kettle and then became the production designer for Taggart.”
John was putting in the Wheel of Fortune set, when he reconnected with an old friend, Carol Smillie, and the pair first appeared together on a fashion show, Get It On.
Following that, he presented Better Homes with Carol Vordemann, before going on to 60 Minute Makeover as well as making regular appearances on daytime TV. He says: “I started John Amabile Design because I was getting requests from clients who had seen my work on TV. I think they liked the fact that nothing I did was outrageous, unlike some other TV designers.”
He now takes on interior projects for showhomes on behalf of developers and builders, his latest being the Park Quadrant development, and private clients.
But John also offers a curated collection of household wares to purchase online or from the studio. “I’ve always believed that whether you have £50 or £500,000, there are ways to change your surroundings to make things better. And the collection is a way for people to create an elegant, layered look.”
A successful YouTube channel and Instagram account has led to another new direction for the presenter in 2022 – the John Amabile Design School.
He explains: “We aim to offer a mini-course on the fundamentals of design, through case studies, how to do it yourself, how to scale up a room and plan, how the colour wheel works, and dispelling myths.
“I pride myself on the fact that me doing my job genuinely helps people. I’ve ticked most of my design boxes and to be able to share my experience is a great opportunity.